OpenStreetMap and Home Education

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The OpenStreetMap project allows anyone to get involved with making maps. The openness of the project means that it is a great tool to help children learn about mapping, geography, computers and their local area. Any parents and children can get involved with OpenStreetMap, but given the time and flexibility available to home educated families, they may particularly enjoy taking an active part in the OpenStreetMap effort.

What's in it for Home Educators?

Actively participating in the OpenStreetMap project can spark children's interest in learning about many different topics. Here are some possibilities:

Understanding Maps

It goes without saying that playing with OpenStreetMap teaches you about maps. You have great motivation to read a map if you are doing so with the purpose of finding the errors and omissions so that you can fix them. Editing OpenStreetMap pages shows a very direct correlation between the lines on the map and the physical geography of the world. Use of Walking Papers will allow students to see a map as a diagram that can be directly written on, interpreted and incorporated into a new version.

Experiencing GPS Technology

GPS technology is a key way for contributors to collect data to build the maps. If you attend a mapping party you will have the chance to borrow a GPS receiver and use it to gather data. Holding the devices in your hand and seeing them in action leads to lots more questions as to how they are working, what satellites are and so on. If you get really carried away you can look at the maths of how it knows where you are (good luck!).

Using Computers

While capturing the data is one half of the OpenStreetMap equation, using a computer to translate the raw data into OpenStreetMap pictures is the other. Once you have your GPS traces and scribbled notes about places of interest, you use the OpenStreetMap software to draw the map. Getting started with this is really easy. The simplest editing software runs straight from your web browser and is a doddle to use. The excitement of finding a simple typo in a street name and then fixing it is infectious for both children and parents a like. As you progress in experience you can move on to more sophisticated programs with more options to add richer details to the maps. All the software used in OpenStreetMap is open source and so the enthusiastic can get involved with understanding the programs and the IT plumbing needed to make a complex system like OpenStreetMap work.

Understanding the Local Area

OpenStreetMap is a great excuse to investigate your local area. Once hooked you will find yourself being nagged to take detours down unmapped streets in order to find their name and update the database on your return.

Excuse to Meet Up with Other Home Educators

A mini mapping party is a great reason to get a few families together to tackle mapping an area as a team. The process of collecting data and then editing it on a computer lends itself nicely to splitting into small groups and sharing knowledge and equipment.

Elementary School Lessons Plans

Elementary School Lessons Plans

How do I get Involved?

  • Attend a mapping party
  • Create your own mini mapping party

Tell us How You Got On

Edit the page to describe what you did and what others might like to copy or avoid